June 1, 2012

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

When it comes to life, ‘leave nothing undared for the kingdom of God’

Sean GallagherThe last two Indianapolis 500 races have featured wild finishes. In both, drivers with a chance to win have crashed on the final lap.

Last year, leader J.R. Hildebrand was within sight of the finish line when his car slammed into the fourth-turn wall. That allowed Dan Wheldon to take the lead for the first time that day and also take the checkered flag.

This year, it was Japanese driver Takuma Sato who crashed while trying to pass leader and ultimate winner Dario Franchitti in the first turn of the 200th and final lap of the famous race.

After last year’s race, I reflected on the spiritual lessons of humility and hope found in it. In the finish of this year’s race, there is a challenge to many people of faith—myself very much included—to be daring for the kingdom of God.

Sato wasn’t going to settle for second place. He wanted to win and made a daring move to do so. As a result, he crashed and ended up finishing 17th. But he could have just as easily pulled off one of the greatest passes and victories in the history of the 100-year-old race. If he would have sat back and finished second, his performance would likely have been forgotten.

After the race, Sato gave a simple analysis for his hard driving in the last several laps, including his decision to try to pass Franchitti for the lead on the last lap. “I was going for the win,” he said.

That should be the concise analysis of the life of faith of each one of us. With the help of God’s grace, so much lies within our grasp. The question is, are we willing to make the commitment to cooperate with that grace and reach for greatness? Or are we content with mediocrity?

The 19th-century French saint Eugene de Mazenod once said that we should “leave nothing undared for the kingdom of God.”

That applies both in our interior lives and our relationships with other people. When we are honest with ourselves and with God, we will see aspects of our lives that are in need of improvement. It might be a deeply ingrained bad habit that we have lived with for many years. We might, therefore, think that there is nothing to be done, especially if we have tried in the past to change, only to ultimately meet with failure every time.

Such a conclusion, though, shortchanges the power of God’s grace, and the great hopes and plans that he has in store for us.

Likewise, we should be daring in our hopes and prayers to bring others into God’s kingdom. We may have friends or relatives who have been away from the Lord for years and years. It might appear on the surface that they are set in their ways on matters of faith and there is simply nothing to be done.

But God’s grace can accomplish more than we could ever imagine, and we should always be daring in our hopes and dreams for such people. Pray for them daily with the firm conviction that God can bring them closer to him. And never stop giving them a good example of just how joyful a life of faith in God can be.

In the end, our daring cooperation with God’s grace might end up being a failure, like Takuma Sato’s efforts to win this year’s Indianapolis 500. In such a case, the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta ring true once again, “God hasn’t called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.”

So be like Sato and go for the win. For even if we seem to fail in this life, in God’s eyes we will still drink the milk in the ultimate Victory Lane—heaven.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter and columnist for The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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